NAPERVILLE, Ill. (WLS) — Just several years ago, when the Bansal family decorated their Naperville home for Diwali, they got most of the decorations from India.
“But now everything you see here, we buy here,” said Indian Community Outreach CEO Krishna Bansal.
It’s part of a growing awareness and recognition in the U.S of the five-day festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and others primarily of South Asian origin.
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“Just four and five years back, people used to ask what was Diwali. Now we don’t get that question. It’s a festival of lights,” Bansal said.
Viral Shah said his non-South Asian colleagues now know sometime between mid-October and mid-November, he’s going to be taking some time off from work to celebrate Diwali with family and friends.
“It makes you feel part of the fabric of the community that you are in that they are able to recognize to keep an eye out for things that are important to you,” said Shah, who is the treasurer of Indian Community Outreach.
Starting next year, New York City will recognize Diwali as a school holiday. Some are hoping other districts around the country will follow the lead of the nation’s largest school system, making the school holiday calendar more inclusive.
“We are very lucky that we grew up in an area with a lot of Indian kids going to our schools, so we are able to talk to them about it. But in terms of our teachers and our non-South Asian friends. They had no clue,” said Deeya Bansal, who is now a college student.
BAPS volunteer Janki Patel had a similar experience growing up.
“It’s so cool seeing something that you’ve loved and cherished all these years kind of being accepted by a broader audience,” she said.
Patel takes pride in helping organize Diwali festivities for her community and the general public.
She said BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett is hosting a fireworks display.
“It’s been really cool to be like this is the person I’ve been all these years, and it’s really great sharing that with the people that I love the most,” Patel said.
Krishna Bansal hopes not only awareness of Diwali continues to grow, but also participation.
“We would love to get everyone involved with us, celebrating the wonderful marvelous festival,” he said.
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